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The History of Northstar Part VII – East West Partners Comes to Tahoe

We have looked at the history of Northstar up through the creation of the ski resort and its ownership, operations and management up to Vail Resorts, Inc. Now let’s take a closer look at how East West Partners (EWP) became involved in this amazing vision.

First, in order to understand and appreciate how Northstar developed into the world-class resort it is today – with over $1 Billion in new amenities over the last decade – you must travel back to Vail, Colorado in the 1980’s. It was over 30 years ago that Vail Resorts and East West Partners first united to develop an ultimate mountain-living and ski resort experience in Beaver Creek and Bachelor Gulch. These two companies have had a long-standing relationship and interconnection of major players that prove vital to Northstar’s history.

EWP’s story not only begins, but is also embodied, by a gentleman named Harry Frampton. From 1982 to 1986, Frampton was President of Vail Associates, Inc. which owned and managed Vail Ski Resort and Beaver Creek. In 1985, Vail Associates, Inc. was purchased by Gillett Holdings, Inc. and George Gillett Jr. assumed the position as President. This was a friendly exchange, and Gillett encouraged and supported Frampton in starting his own company. In 1986, Harry Frampton and Mark Smith founded the development company East West Partners. The company’s first acquisition was land in Beaver Creek, and EWP went on to be this ski town’s dominant developer.

Due to collapsing junk bonds, Gillett Holdings, Inc. declared bankruptcy in 1991 and Vail Associates was purchased by Apollo Management. Under this new owner, Vail Associates was changed to Vail Resorts, Inc. and the company went public in 1997. Apollo Management divested itself from Vail Resorts in 2003 and former Apollo executive, Rob Katz, stayed on with Vail Resorts, Inc to run the company as its CEO.

George Gillett Jr. wanted to continue business in the ski resort industry and, in 1996, founded Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc. During 1996 and 1997, Booth Creek purchased many ski resorts throughout North America including Northstar at Tahoe, Sierra at Tahoe and Bear Mountain from Fibreboard Corp. Booth Creek wanted to execute the master plan originally established for Northstar in the 1970’s to create a year-round destination resort and world-class ski mountain. Only a portion of the planned village had been executed by 1979 and after that construction dwindled (this area of the Village is often referred to as Old Northstar).

During this time, East West Partners was expanding its portfolio of developments, etc. to Vail, Breckenridge, South Carolina, and Utah. The company had its eye on Lake Tahoe appreciating its natural beauty, recreational attributes, and ideal location as a vacation destination. So, it was announced in 2000 that EWP and Booth Creek would collaborate on the joint venture of developing, dramatically updating, and completing Northstar’s original vision. This vision included a European-style pedestrian Village with residential and commercial build-out at the base of the mountain, and residential development on the mountain for an ultimate ski-in/ski-out experience. When it was announced in 2011 that Vail Resorts, Inc. purchased the operations management for Northstar Ski Resort, it was like the final piece of a puzzle in the grand vision for Northstar’s future was put into place.